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Buyers seminar finds opportunity is based on firm common ground for Australias demand driven caravan parks

March 20, 2009
Buyers seminar finds opportunity is based on firm common ground for Australias demand driven caravan parks

By Garth Morrison Editor GoSeeAustralia and GoSee New Zealand

Caravan parks are unique at any time and more so with international economic doomsayers in full cry. Caravan parks swim against the flood of negativity because there is more demand for caravan parks, tourist parks holiday parks, call them what you like, than there are caravan parks to meet the demand.

About 12 to 14 Australian caravan parks have been lost over the last 10 years one expert industry source says.

How does GoSee know that?

Well because Steve Cooper, Barry Stewart, Peter Crawford, Rudy Pieck, John MacKenzie, Kim Rielly, Daniel Hilton and Michael Quealy told me so.

Why does GoSee believe what they have to say?

Well they all bat for different teams and when they combined to help would-be caravan park buyers at this weeks seminar at Park Lane Tourist Park, Traralgon they came for all points of the Australian compass. Which makes collusion unlikely.

Park Lane Manager Barry Stewart nailed it when he said - "We know everything (about caravan parks) and if we don't know we know where to go to find out".

The collective specialist knowledge at the Caravan Park Buyers seminar was considerable.

But something which added unique credibility was the way in which each of the independent presenters were all on the same page about what can go right and wrong in the matter of running caravan parks for profit rather than fun.

Lifestyle, well maybe, but prepare for complete commitment seven days and any hour of the day and night. Starting with our Master of Ceremonies Steve Cooper from Tower Business and Real Estate the 'do some Due Diligence on yourself' just kept on coming for would-be owners. Accountant Rudy Pieck, partner in BDO Kendalls said "Pay yourself".

BDO has developed the Accommodation Pricing Tool for caravan park operators. APT is an Internet based software program. The decision support tools works on information entered by park operators and generates data to assist management decisions on questions like - What should I charge for my tourist park accommodation?

Rudy and Michael Quealy of Cosgraves Property Advisers set the bar with the observation that caravan parks with an annual yield of less than $800,000 were smaller caravan parks.

Generally the presenter group feel that caravan parks above that bottom line are better managed and for that reason often provide a better lifestyle in terms of looking after their people.

Good people (to run the caravan park) kept coming up. As good as your people, Bubbly, friendly front office is essential, said the group.

Peter Crawford, Partner in Madgwick Lawyers dealt with Due Diligence from a caravan parks point of view with insights which GoSee doubts are common among some legal all-rounders.

His observation that while land tax is not applicable in Victoria some landlords have not taken advantage of this was a show-stopper.

Yes your dates are confirmed
Yes your dates are confirmed

His case study on wills in which an elderly farmer found himself evicted by his daughter-in-laws parents from the property his family had held for generations was, to understate the matter, sobering.

GoSee's Alan Hislop rang the bell on not paying yourself enough. Then being unable to work for years through injury in an auto accident and finding that income insurance can be limited to 75 percent of your average (lowly) pay.

Alan also did a presentation on Internet marketing opportunities available through GoSee Australia Australias leading Industry Caravan Park Directory, and discussed improving the performance of caravan park web sites through search engines and self management tweaking to produce instant and responsive changes.

Generally the presenter group agree that $80,000 per annum for one and $160,000 for two is fair pay for caravan park owners in a 24 hour 7 day work week environment.

John MacKenzie, Bankwest Business Manager, looked at financing and in concert with Business Development Manager Kim Rielly struck notes which ring in the considerable long-term memory of GoSee.

Kim's comment that bankers are happy to have savers back in their deposit accounts may not fit with our Prime Ministers spend now or tomorrow we die, but it does show that Australia has a lot of old heads who have been through the downsides before.

Then, goodness me, John raised an old tried and true friend of GoSee's -SWOT.

A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis is a friend for all seasons. Forget star-gazing, take a reality check and SWOT those dreams.

Seminar participants walk the course
Seminar participants walk the course

John followed that with the warm security for banker and borrower of three-way cash flows. Memories indeed and he got an understanding laugh from the audience;

and, said Kim, bankers are now the watchers. No Yankie Doodle NINJA loans available. Money is not being loaned on the basis that the would-be borrower is breathing in and out.

John produced more tried and true considerations - earnings, cost control, forward planning, cash flow budgets, succession and strong business partners.

What a SMART approach to business planning. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic with set Time goals.

Michael Quealy of Cosgraves represents a firm which over 20 years specializes in valuations, market research and advice and reports on more than 100 tourism and hospitality properties a year.

His approach to SWOT analysis in the caravan park valuation context once again supported and underlined the collective messages which came through spontaneously at the Caravan Park Buyers Seminar.

The differences are in the focus on Strengths - location (beach, mountain, river, lake), park layout, ease of management, mix of sites (permanents, cabins, ensuites, tourist, return trade); and any particular items which set the caravan park apart.

Barry Stewart discusses cabin yields
Barry Stewart discusses cabin yields

Presenters agreed that land looms large as an opportunity and a threat. Feasibility is the issue with land. Building a new caravan park on expensive land (residential) is a great big dollar gobbler. New caravan parks are not common. This is why demand ahead of supply is the current profile of the caravan park industry.

But (no surprise) economic uncertainty, Michael Quealy says, has produced a significantly more hesitant investment environment.

What produces confidence?

Strong partners and belief in yourself.

Presentations came from -

Steve Cooper - Tower Business and Real Estate, Australia's leading caravan park, motel and hotel broker.

Barry Stewart - Manager of Park Lane Tourist Park discussed Caravan Park Operations.

Peter Crawford - Partner Madgwicks Lawyers covered legal considerations.

Rudy Pieck - Partner BDO Kendalls Accountants dealt with the magic of numbers. He established the firms National Tourist Parks Specialisation Group.

John MacKenzie Bankwest Business Manager and Business Development Manager Kim Riellylooked at financing.

Garth Morrison and Alan Hislop - ContACT Internet Solutions, web site design, build and hosting Company. Garth is editor of Australia's largest on-line caravanning web site Alan, Sales Manager is a former banker and a caravan park owner and operator since 1992.

Daniel Hilton - WHK Amitage Downie checked financial planning. He has been involved with some of Victoria's biggest accommodation developments in recent years.

Michael Quealy - Cosgraves Property Advisers. The firm specializes in valuations, market research and advice and reports on more than 100 tourism and hospitality properties each year.

Editor's Note: A byline is used on a GoSee Feature when it contains opinion. This Info Article is general and reflects the writers impressions of the recent Caravan Park Buyers Seminar at Park Lane Tourist Park Traralgon.

Throughout the seminar presentations re-inforced the writer's personal belief that the individual attention of professionals expert in their sphere of interest is essential to a business decision. GoSee recommends that readers get advice specific to their needs.

Michael Quealy discusses caravan park valuation
Michael Quealy discusses caravan park valuation
Caravan Park Buyers on the front line reception desk
Caravan Park Buyers on the front line reception desk
Girls Room (linen store) Park Lane
Girls Room (linen store) Park Lane
Steve Cooper kicks off Caravan Park Buyers Seminar
Steve Cooper kicks off Caravan Park Buyers Seminar
GoSee office at Park Lane seminar
GoSee office at Park Lane seminar
Girls Room (linen store) Park Lane
Girls Room (linen store) Park Lane
Green Acres Village  lifestyle homes
Green Acres Village lifestyle homes